We spent our summer holidays in Peru and to get there we used US Airways miles. Unfortunately Avianca / TACA had not joined Star Alliance at the time of booking yet, so our routing had to be a bit strange: MUC-STR-EWR-LIM / BOG-FRA-MUC. We decided for United from Stuttgart as they use a Boeing 757 from there which guaranteed a good sleep in their new seats! Unfortunately there was no "lie-flat" availability on the flights back to Germany, neither via New York nor Canada, just via Houston and the danger of catching United's domestic First Class was too high, so we went for Lufthansa from Bogotá. Not the greatest option, but far better than domestic First Class.
Booking was done smoothly and efficiently by telephone, costs: 159 EUR and 100,000 miles, which is great!
First we had to hop to Stuttgart on Augsburg Airways, Dash-8. We were served breakfast (muesli and bread) which was actually quite good. However, the new seats were quite hard and uncomfortable. We landed in time and immediately connected to our flight to New York.
Aircraft: Boeing 757
Route: Stuttgart - New York - Lima
Date: August 2012
We were welcomed politely and with a smile and a nice flight attendant guided us to our seats. Our jackets were put to the wardrobe and we were offered drinks immediately (champagne, juice or water). The pre-flight drink was served in plastic, but only the pre-flight drink. At our seats we found a warm blanket, a big pillow, noise-cancelling headphones, a 500-ml-bottle of water and an amenity kit, a grey-blue rectangular bag, one side covered by mesh, so you can see through. A quite re-usable little kit! Content: socks, eye shades, ear plugs, peppermints, sanitizing wipe, toothbrush and toothpaste, comb, a ballpoint pen, hand / cuticle cream, lip balm, facial cleansing cloth, tissues. So quite a lot! Soon a nice woman came to us, introduced herself as concierge for this flight and asked if we had any questions or needed help with anything.
Shortly after take-off we were offered warm almonds (salted), served on china. Then we had some nice lunch (starters served from trolley, so you could choose) and finished with delicious ice-cream for which a variety of toppings was offered from trolley: chocolate sauce, carmel sauce, sweet cherries, whipped cream, almonds and some more! Lunch service was quick (lunch was finished ca. 90 min after departure) and you didn't sit in front of an empty table for a very long time! Afterwards some good sleep (water was re-filled all the time) and then time for a movie. About 90 min before landing we were served a chicken wrap. You could keep on watching a movie during landing, which I find quite comfortable.
This flight was very enjoyable, the flight attendants very nice and helpful, lavatories were always kept clean.
Three hours later we boarded our next flight to Lima. Again United, Boeing 757, and we had the same seats. However, this flight was a bit different. No amenity kit, no water bottles. Dinner was served quickly, again ice-cream for dessert, cheese as pre-landing snack. But they didn't have water bottles on board! So it was a bit annoying to have just a small glass of water which had to be re-filled very often.
We landed a bit too late in the evening. Immigration in Lima was done quickly and we were taken to our hotel in Miraflores. Unfortunately no hotel we stayed at during our trip provided bottles of water, which I found a bit strange, as tap water is not good for drinking or brushing teeth. Usually it smelled quite bad and / or was of some yellow / brown colour. So we just bought big bottles every day, as you need to drink plenty of water in this dry climate anyway. Some hotels also seem to use tap water for the coffee / tea they serve for breakfast, sometimes it tasted really bad, so we started to brew our own beverages in our room (we had our own portable immersion boiling device).
The trip through Peru was really great. There's a lot to see and learn and people are really friendly everywhere! Most people speak English, but of course some basics in Spanish are always helpful! We also felt very safe and never had the feeling of pickpockets being around. Our local guides (we had booked the trip through German agency Thürmer Tours that cooperates with Peru Best Travels) were very friendly and knew a lot, everything was just perfect. The landscape is just amazing! We did the classic tour: Lima - Nazca - Ballestas Islands - Arequipa - Colca Canyon / Cruz del Condor - Puno - Cusco - Machu Picchu. We took the Vistadome-train from Poroy to Aguas Calientes (now also called Machu Picchu!), a great option. For long distance travel by bus tickets on Cruz del Sur and Inka Express were booked, both a very comfortable way of travelling. Near Cusco we visited an animal sanctuary, the only one in the region, where people take care of injured or badly treated wild animals (one vicuna with just one eye left, condors rescued from some cruel "fiesta", pumas rescued from a circus, parrots smuggled from Amazonia etc.).
In the evening it got quite cold and even hotels in high altitude locations only offered tiny radiators or heating systems, so it was good that we had brought along hot-water bottles! It's also important to know that public toilets often do not work / flush. Cities and touristic areas were kept very clean, but unfortunately many brooks and rivers are full of garbage. The altitude wasn't any big problem. In restaurants you have a wide choice of food, as I found mostly based on meat (you have to decide for yourself if you go for alpaca or guinea pig), so vegetarians might have a little problem. However, during tours many restaurants offer buffet meals where you can indulge in soups and a wide variety of vegetables! Portions served in restaurants are really huge!
At almost every location there are women and children with (baby) llamas, alpacas or lambs and you should give them some money if you want to take photos of them. In rural areas the mothers of those baby animals are always close, but in cities like Cusco this is not the case. I saw many lambs that apparently were in very bad condition and they were not treated with much care, so please do not support this kind of "business". People also got very aggressive if you asked them to treat the animals better. The same goes for people that offer you to have photos of you taken together with eagles. Our guide told us that those eagles are caught from wilderness and therefore they are close to extinction in some regions.
Some pictures from the trip:
Nazca-lines and Ballestas Islands: The Cessna will go into steep and sharp curves (they are announced) to the right and to the left side so that everyone can see properly. Although it's not like being in a rollercoaster, it might be good to take pills against motion sickness in advance if you are sensitive (and do not eat beforehand!). When going to the Ballestas, make sure to have a windproof jacket and hood!
Flight (LAN Economy) to Arequipa: Make sure to have a window seat, the vulcano-scenery is amazing! Remember to take very high sunscreen (SPF 50 and higher!) and always wear long-sleeved shirts and a hat! When visiting Santa Catalina in Arequipa, do not lean against the walls, the red paint might go off and ruin your jacket! Have dinner "On the terrace", a restaurant on Plaza de Armas, with a nice rooftop terrace.
Driving to Chivay via Patapampa Pass (altitude: 4,910 m!). You'll see lots of vicunas, llamas, alpacas, ducks and many other animals. Stay in the car and take photos just with open window / door, but do not get out and scare them away! If high altitude is a problem for you, consider getting a prescription from your doctor (we took "Diamox" and had no problems at all). Remember to eat light, drink a lot and don't run in the beginning!
Colca Canyon is nice in the morning. When winds develop, condors might show up at Cruz del Condor. Plan 1-2 hours to watch the birds.
Lake Titicaca area with Sillustani. Puno is ok, but nothing special. We went to the floating islands of Uros and continued to Taquile Island (where men traditionally knit!). It was really nice there, especially because there are no cars!
By bus to Cusco (it will take 4-5 stops on the way so you can see some additional sights). After leaving Puno and passing Juliaca (I didn't like that town, it was really dirty, garbage and debris everywhere in the streets, even on Main Street) we stopped in Pukara, La Raya (altitude ca. 4,300 m), Raqchi and Andahuaylillas. The trip took 10 hours over the Altiplano and back to the mountain area. Really great landscapes!
The Sacred Valley. Don't miss Ollantaytambo. Go there in the forenoon, because before midday strong winds will develop and it feels like you're blown off the top of the terraces! You can skip the Indio Market in Pisac, visit the salinas or Moray terraces instead (unfortunately we didn't have any more time for that). The Animal Sanctuary in Ccochahuasi is also highly recommended! Don't forget to leave some donation there to support the work.
Trip to Machu Picchu. You have to get up EARLY (leaving Cusco ca. 5:45) if you don't stay overnight in Machu Picchu. But it's great! (Also the trip on the train there.)
Cusco and surrounding (Saqsayhuamán etc.). If you're lucky you'll catch one of the many processions / fiestas on the Plaza. Get a balcony table in one of the restaurants and watch from above. Also don't miss Museo Inka. A very nice lady is sitting on the first floor. She's doing wonderful artwork by carving and painting squashs (http://www.makillaqta.com/).
For our domestic flights we took LAN in Economy. Flights were pretty ok and you always got a snack box, decorated nicely with Peruvian sights and great landscapes. On domestic flights you are allowed to take liquids with you, even water bottles etc. Before check-in, you checked bags are inspected for dangerous goods such as sprays or gas. However, they just open the bag and have a quick look, so I'm not sure about the efficiency there... On the flight to Bogotá headphones were handed out for free.
Aircraft: Airbus A340-600
Route: Bogotá - Frankfurt
Date: September 2012
Unfortunately we couldn't check our baggage from Cusco to Munich (LAN and Lufthansa), so we had to collect our baggage in Bogotá and check it in once again. However, the airport staff at Bogotá airport was very rude in all places (apart from Lufthansa check-in desk, there everyone was very nice), the lady at the emigration desk chewed chewing gum in a very nasty way. Most people did not understand or speak English. Security checks were strange: Some people had to present their liquid bags, others just went through with cups of coffee and bottles of water. We spent some time in the lounge (not only used by Lufthansa, but also TAM, American Airlines etc.). They provided some cold and hot drinks and basic food, like crackers or crisps. At some point they must have served small sandwiches, but you only could get some if you sat right in front of the buffet, they were gone in seconds! Before boarding, we were offered a selection of magazines and newspapers, still in the lounge. Passengers waiting in the lounge boarded as last ones. Immediately before boarding your hand luggage was screened once again and every passenger was checked "by hand" once again (however, they did not check jackets and coats which you could keep on, so this was rather strange).
On board we were welcomed warmly and even greeted by name. Blanket, pillow, amenity kit (socks, eyeshades, earplugs, protectors for headphones, toothpaste and toothbrush, Bogner lip balm) and a 330 ml bottle was waiting at our seats (still the old angled ones). Dinner service was a bit faster than usual, but still it took almost one hour before the starters were served (I think the comparably big Business class cabin is the reason for that)! In the meantime nuts (served in plastic) were handed out. I decided for the only vegetarian option, mushrooms with dumplings, a typical Bavarian dish. Unfortunately it was very greasy... Afterwards I slept some time. I didn't use the entertainment system during the flight. Breakfast was served ca. 90 min before landing. The ham tasted very "like a pig", but I prefer fresh fruit anyway. We landed in Frankfurt ahead of time, so everything was fine!